Corn planting started yesterday which means this past week the sprayer had been running hard to get ready. The sprayer will cover all of our corn acres prior to planting to terminate any cover crops, weeds or grass. It will also provide a brief window of protection from new weeds popping up, so that the baby corn get a chance to break through the ground and get going before being overtaken.
When I get to talk to people about our farm, the sprayer seems to be the most notorious piece of machinery we own! During those conversations, I realize there is a lot of misinformation about spraying and chemical use on the farm. Here are a few things we wish everyone knew about spraying.
1. We do not soak our crops in chemical.
Today Matt was using the smaller sprayer because the larger one was waiting on a part to come in. This sprayer has a 420 gallon tank - of which approximately 394 gallons, or 94%, is WATER! Glyphosate (RoundUp) has a typical application rate of 16-32 ounces per acre! That is "Not a Latte!" as shown by this award winning CommonGround video!
Spraying is an important tool for farmers to control pests – but spraying takes time and money. We are very careful to limit the amount of chemical (and cost) to only what is needed.
2. Chemical use in farming did not start with GMOs.
While my husband was driving the sprayer, I visited with my father-in-law about spraying. He talked to me about the chemicals he used long before GMO corn and soybeans became available for him to grow – some of them we still use today, many of them we do not. Many of them have been replaced by less toxic, but more effective man-made chemicals that are safer for our farms and for the farmers. It's also interesting to note that pesticide use is not limited to conventional farms - organic farms use pesticides as well! These organic farmers do a great job of discussing that here.
Farmers and scientists know that today's chemicals, and how we use them, is much safer and better understood than in decades past.
3. Pesticide use on farms is actually decreasing!
Thanks in huge part to technology and better farming practices that includes tools like GMO’s and cover crops, chemical use is actually decreasing on farms in the US!
USDA data indicates that chemical usage on farms increased until 1981 and has since been steadily decreasing. This is true on our own farm as well, where we have seen significant reduction in chemicals in the last decade alone.
The increased use of glyphosate is often cited by people trying to create fear of food and farming. Glyphosate use has indeed increased with the development of resistant crops, but it has replaced chemicals that had to be used in higher doses and more frequently.
4. Tillage is not a better alternative to spraying for our farm.
My father in law was one of the first in our county to adopt no-till practices and we take a lot of pride in NOT tilling our farms.
On our farms, for the type of soils and topography we have, tillage can be very damaging. Using new technology - equipment designed for no-till farming, chemistry, GMOs - we have been able to remain a no-till farm. And for us that means less soil erosion, less run-off, less compaction, more organic matter in our soils, a healthier environment for all the microorganisms in our soils. In other words, it has made our dirt healthier!
5. EVERYTHING is a chemical!
Between a lack of basic science understanding and fear mongering used in marketing everything from toilet bowl cleaner to our food, people have developed an unfounded fear of the word "chemical". Chemicals are neither good or bad, and all matter is made up of chemicals. I love this post on Scientific American that explains more about chemicals.
Despite popular belief, modern chemicals and spraying practices are one of the many tools that have made our farm, and other farms like ours, more sustainable!
Check back soon for updates on #Plant17!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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